Nutrition & Health
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Author: Danae Baggs Date Posted: 18 July 2018
Whether you’re getting your first wetsuit or considering an upgrade, knowing which wetsuits you should choose is paramount to succeeding in your triathlon and open water training and racing.
Wetsuits are a tricky purchase to make. They're one of the most expensive kit items, so make sure you know what to look for before you make your purchase. Warmth, flexibility and buoyancy are all factors you should consider along with price.
In essence, the more experienced you are, the less buoyancy you need. This is because experienced swimmers already have great technique and have adapted to swimming long distances in the water.
Intermediate swimmers/triathletes – meaning you’re comfortable being in the water but your technique is less developed than the die-hards – will want a well-rounded wetsuit that still provides freedom of movement but also has a fair bit of buoyancy.
If you’re just starting out, you’ll want a very buoyant wetsuit. This will help you stay in a better swimming position, decreasing your drag and increasing your swimming speed. It will also preserve your stamina.
Recommendation: Orca S6 Men’s / Women’s
The S6’s SCS-coated Yamamoto front panel and its lower back panel provides maximum buoyancy in the water to guide you into the most efficient swimming position.
Recommendation: Orca Sonar Men’s / Women’s
This brilliant all-rounder provides the perfect mix of flexibility and buoyancy. Elite-level flexibility is provided for an intermediate budget, which Aerodome2 panels lift your body into the most efficient swimming position.
Experienced swimmers should opt for a highly flexible wetsuit. The freedom of movement that a flexible wetsuit gives you will allow you to make the most of your swimming technique. Freedom of movement around the shoulders is particularly important to power up your arm strokes.
Recommendation: Orca Equip Men’s / Women’s
This super-flexible wetsuit is designed as a friendly entry-level wetsuit with the technology and flexibility of an intermediate-level wetsuit. It can even help you transition from pool to open water swimming. The new Equip features 1.5mm arms and shoulders plus InfinitySkin lining to achieve a massive range of motion and superior flexibility.
Recommendation: Orca Openwater Men’s / Women’s
The Openwater’s 2-2.5mm Yamamoto neoprene allows for immense flexibility and great freedom of movement. Its neon-orange neoprene arms lend you high visibility, so you can be sure that boats and other swimmers can keep an eye on you.
All triathlons have different conditions. Wetsuits can be mandatory, optional, or prohibited. Make sure you check out the conditions of each race!
A good point to keep in mind is that the longer distance your swim, the more buoyancy you’ll need from your wetsuit to conserve energy and maintain efficient position – no matter how experienced you are.
If you plan to compete in Swimruns, an event that involves transitioning between running and swimming several times during races, invest in Swimrun-specific wetsuit and shoes. A Swimrun allows you to use pull buoys and hand paddles to improve your speed, under the condition that you carry your equipment through the whole race.
Recommendation: Orca SwimRun Men’s / Women’s
With removeable arms and a front zip, the SwimRun allows you to adapt your suit to the conditions and keep your body temperature down during running sections. It also features storage compartments for race essentials such as nutrition and a GPS. The SwimRun has medium buoyancy and flexibility.
Full-sleeved wetsuits are warmer and provide extra buoyancy. Sleeves also decrease drag on your body, meaning that they’re technically faster. Full-sleeve wetsuits are particularly good for super sprint, sprint and Olympic events, as they promote a higher stroke rate and cut down on any resistance.
Sleeveless wetsuits are cooler in warm water and provide much more shoulder freedom. Many swimmers who choose a sleeveless wetsuit do so to get a faster T1 (transition), cutting precious seconds off stripping off your wetsuit. For Ironman, half-Ironman and other long-distance events, a sleeveless wetsuit may be a better choice since it promotes a longer, slower but more efficient stroke to preserve your energy.
Wetsuits should fit snugly, to the point of feeling tight. After all, you don’t want water getting in, slowing you down and making you cold. When you first get into a wetsuit, you may feel strange. Keep these simple things in mind: the neckline should be snug but not too restrictive. The arms should be long and tight enough to not move up and let water in during your stroke. The chest shouldn’t restrict your breathing in any way. Remember too that the neoprene will loosen slightly after it gets into the water.
Have a look at the sizing chart for the brand you’re buying and make sure you follow the specifications. Here is Orca’s Sizing Chart to help you out.
Think of your wetsuit as an investment rather than an expense. Choosing the correct wetsuit for your goals and abilities will greatly improve your swimming technique. Once you have your wetsuit, make sure to care for it properly to get the most of out of your purchase.
Full / Sleeveless